'Strong action' urged against Jessup tavern Sales to cadets, past violations cited

November 17, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The Howard County legal office last night recommended that the Liquor Board revoke the license of a Jessup tavern or suspend it for 30 days and put the tavern on probation for two years for selling beer to underage police cadets.

The sales of six packs of beer to undercover cadets on July 1 and again on Aug. 27 were "more than a casual occurrence," Senior Assistant County Solicitor F. Todd Taylor Jr. told the Liquor Board. The owners of Three Nines Tavern on Washington

Boulevard exhibited "almost a cavalier attitude," Mr. Taylor said. "I recommend strong action."

Thomas M. Meachum, attorney for Three Nines, called Mr. Taylor's recommendation of revocation "ludicrous." If the owners had a cavalier attitude, police would have found violations every time they went to the tavern, Mr. Meachum said. Instead, police found evidence of conformity except for the July and August incidents, he said.

"A mistake was made clearly the first time, but not the second time," Mr. Meachum told the board, which comprises the five County Council members. In the first instance, undercover Cadet Joshua Shandler, who turned 21 -- the legal age for drinking -- 19 days after the sale, entered the tavern without identification and bought a six-pack of beer from Kathy Holden, the cashier.

On Aug. 27, undercover Cadet Todd I. Leppert, 19, entered the tavern without a wallet or identification and also bought a six-pack of beer from Ms. Holden. The difference in the two instances, witnesses said, is that Cadet Leppert looks much older.

So much older in fact, that immediately after the sale, manager Stanley J. Natiaska angrily confronted Liquor Inspector Holly Burnham and told her that he felt the Police Department had changed its policy and was now using deception in checking on the selling of alcohol to minors, Mr. Natiaska told the Liquor Board.

Mr. Natiaska felt differently about the first incident. He told the Liquor Board that he asked the liquor inspector if he could see Cadet Shandler, and after seeing him said that the cashier should have carded him.

Mr. Meachum brought in other witnesses to testify as to how old Cadet Leppert looks, and in his summation asked Liquor Board members to look at the cadet and judge for themselves. Mr. Meachum said the Police Department made a mistake in using Cadet Leppert to test owners for violations of sales to minors.

Since the second incident, Three Nines cards everyone in the package goods side of its operation and has a written policy for carding young-looking people in the bar. An employee who refuses to card a young-looking customer will be suspended one shift if the customer turns out to be of legal age and will be fired if the customer is not, Mr. Natiaska testified.

Mr. Meachum suggested that the board suspend the license three days for the first offense. For cases where the board feels a penalty is needed for the second offense, he suggested a second three-day suspension that would not be imposed for six months. If during those six months, no more violations were recorded, it would not be imposed at all, he suggested.

Mr. Taylor said that strong action is needed because of past violations at the tavern. The bar was fined $500 in 1977 and $750 in 1979 for switching alcohol in liquor bottles, he said. It also sold alcohol to an underage police cadet in 1984 and was cited in 1987 for running a football pool, he said. The Liquor Board went into executive session to discuss the case. Chairman Darrel Drown, a 2nd District Republican, said he expects a decision by the first week in December.

In unrelated action, the Liquor Board granted a liquor license to Your Wine Shoppe Inc. in the Enchanted Forest shopping center and gave Pine Orchard Liquors permission to expand its premises.

Eighteen months earlier, when the Enchanted Forest shopping center was being built, the board had voted 4-1 to deny a license to Your Wine Shoppe on grounds that a liquor store was not needed as a public convenience.

Since then, the board decided, the center has opened, buyer habits have changed and the store is needed for the convenience of the public.

"Obviously, I'm very happy for the license-holders and for the shopping center," said David A. Carney, attorney for Your Wine Shoppe.

The store will enhance the center, he said, and help promote economic growth in the Ellicott City corridor west of U.S. 29 along U.S. 40.

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